Managing the transition between the different seasons is one of the keys to success in a polytunnel garden. Managing the different needs of plants and soil in your polytunnel while transitioning from summer to autumn is important if you are to enjoy eating delicious and healthy food from your undercover growing areas all year round, and for years to come. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
Out With the Old, In With the New
It is important to be ruthless when it comes to clearing out summer crops to make space for the plants that will overwinter in your polytunnel garden. Sometimes, you will have to decide to get rid of plants that are still productive in order to make the most of the space available to you over time. When making decisions, remember that sometimes it is important to prioritise getting a harvest later, next year, over continuing to enjoy a harvest right now.
Preparing for Colder Weather
In addition to planning ahead when it comes to sowing and planting, it is also important to plan ahead for colder weather. As the nights draw in and temperatures drop, it is easy to be taken by surprise by a sudden early frost. It is a good idea to begin thinking about protecting plants from winter weather in the early autumn, before there is any risk of damage to your plants.
There are plenty of ways to make sure your plants are protected from frost in your polytunnel. You can use mini polytunnels, cloches, horticultural fleece, bubble wrap, and natural materials such as straw and other organic mulches to make sure your plants make it through unscathed even in the coldest of winters.
Caring For The Soil When Transitioning From Summer To Autumn
One other major consideration as you transition from summer to autumn is making sure that you take care of the soil, and keep growing areas healthy and nutrient rich. Adopting a ‘no dig’ approach in your polytunnel is the best way to care for the soil and make sure that its delicate natural system can function as it should. In a no dig system, the soil is left as undisturbed as possible, and rather than digging in organic matter, this is laid on top of the soil to break down through natural agency over time.
As you clear out summer crops and before you sow and plant items for autumn, this is a good time to heavily top-dress the growing areas in your polytunnel with compost, leaf mould or other organic matter. This will help to make sure that there are enough nutrients in the soil to keep plants happy and healthy and avoid plant stress over the winter months.
If you have any other tips to share about what to do when transitioning from summer to autumn in your polytunnel, share those suggestions in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.